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Down the Mississippi River in a Canoe… Solo!

July 22, 2014

“Trust God and go after it, I mean, If God wants anything to happen, it will happen.”

ST. LOUIS, MO (K-LOVE News) -- "We are off for Minnesota! Thank you for everyone praying for me! I'll keep everyone updated periodically! I plan to be in the water by Sunday morning!" – Welborn 

That was the message 18-year-old James Welborn wrote on his blog May 23, as he left hometown Joplin, Missouri, for Minnesota, and the trip of a lifetime. The recent high school graduate intends to navigate the Mississippi River by canoe, entirely alone. As we’re writing this story, James is about halfway down the river, near St. Louis. 

The Mighty Mississippi stretches 2,320 miles from its humble beginnings in Minnesota, to its mega merger into the Gulf of Mexico. There is barge traffic to avoid and the river is subject to all sorts of weather conditions. So why is Welborn attempting this river conquest? “I figured it would be a good adventure; something that you don’t hear about too often. Something, I guess, noteworthy. Like a challenge that you had to tackle. So I had to make it a spiritual journey as well.”

Other than week one, James has been all alone in his canoe. He tells K-LOVE News, “My dad did the first week with me. And, right after we crossed Lake Winnibigoshish up in Minnesota, that was whenever he left me and I’ve been on my own ever since. I think I’ve done about 1,000 miles on my own so far.” 

How he copes

James admits it’s hard at times, but he relies on his waterproof Bible for encouragement, and the goodness of people to keep him going. Clearly God is the unseen Captain on this trip. James says, “It kind of puts me in a position where I’m forced to rely on Him. He’s always shown up, He won’t let me down, and that’s the cool part about it.”

Welborn’s blog is followed closely by the Joplin Globe newspaper. He’s providing first-hand updates on situations he encounters as he paddles south. People along the river are often taking care of him. 

(blog) June 7, 2014 — "I walked into the place, I believe it was called the Rustic Cabin and sat up on the bar. The lady asked, "How can I help you hon?" I replied, "I hear this is the place to get a good burger." She said, "sure is," handed me a menu. I ordered a bacon cheeseburger with waffle fries! While I was waiting I pulled out one of my maps. A guy named Rich started talking to me and asked if I was canoeing the river. Before long I was friends with everyone … A man named Jim bought my meal for me and people started giving me some money to buy supplies! I spent a good part of the evening just chatting! After about 2 hours I decided to head back to camp. I thanked everyone and went on my way! It's been a good day!" – Welborn

Facebook, too, is used to track his solo voyage. On Sunday, July 20, he wrote, “Today was good! I woke up around 7:30am to the heat of the sun. I rolled my sleeping bag and mat up. I was going to go to church this morning at 10:30am, so I had some time to kill. During those three hours, I read Huck Finn, threw rocks in the river, and made a few spears from some sticks! Around 10:00am I got up and begun to walk .5 miles to First Christian Church. They greeted me with open arms. After service a nice older couple named, Julie and Sonny, came up to me and wanted to take me out for dinner. I gladly accepted! We went to a great home cooking restaurant called, "KC's Place." 

James says ‘Go for it’

For anyone thinking of a challenging personal adventure, James is a definite optimist. He says don’t back down, just do it. “Trust God and go after it, I mean, If God wants anything to happen, it will happen. Go out there and people will surprise you. If people hear what you’re doing, they’ll be happy to help.” 

One additional bit of excitement, James tells The Globe he’s been asked to appear in a T.V. documentary, but can’t say just yet what network is involved.  

James Welborn relies on his solar charger for his phone to keep in contact with family… something he promised his mom he would carry.  And he paddles on.

© 2014 K-LOVE News


Listen to the Audio Report

James Welborn 1 James Welborn on the Mississippi (provided)

James Welborn 2 James' point of view (provided)

James Welborn 3 What is onboard the canoe (provided)

James Welborn 4 James & support team before launch (provided)

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